Readers will find tales of two different private businesses in our pages this week. One is voluntarily aiding the city in protecting the Chesapeake Bay. The other is — by all accounts — fulfilling our worst fears about the future of affordable housing at Hunting Point.
Tenants of the shoreline complex say Laramar, which bought the property from the Virginia Department of Transportation earlier this year, has begun raising rents and imposing new fees and financial requirements. It’s clear to them that the company’s starting down the path of pricing out residents.
That’s exactly what residents and city officials worried would happen when the state agency announced it had found a willing buyer back in the fall.
At the time, Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks admitted there was little likelihood that the property would remain a much-needed bastion of market-rate affordable housing in Alexandria. But he, and others, committed to working with the new owner to minimize the damage to the city’s dwindling supply of low cost units.
We’re realistic. We understand Laramar is under no legal obligation to provide affordable housing or keep rents inexpensive. It’s a business, and we imagine the company bought the property looking for a profit.
Hunting Point enjoys easy access to the George Washington Memorial Parkway, is within walking distance of the heart of Old Town and overlooks the Potomac. It’s an obvious moneymaker for anyone willing to invest in repairs and upgrades.
But by choosing to do business in Alexandria, we consider Laramar under a moral obligation to do right by the city’s residents. And residents — whether they live at Hunting Point or not — value affordable housing. They would like to see their diverse mix of neighbors stay in this vibrant city.
Laramar is no stranger to the community as it owns and operates Bennington Crossing along North Armistead Street. So the shared interest in affordable housing from residents and officials shouldn’t come as a surprise.
We urge Laramar to address tenant concerns, which are many, and commit to keeping at least a portion of the complex affordable moving forward.
By contrast, Paradigm Development Co.’s plans for construction in the Hoffman Town Center include a pond that will prove aesthetically pleasing and also will help the city manage potentially polluted stormwater headed for the Chesapeake Bay. Not only will the company build the pond, but it also will pay for the watering hole’s maintenance.
It seems like Laramar could take a hint from Paradigm and put a little thought into what it could do for Alexandria’s residents as well as itself.